Bismarck city commissioners oppose library censorship bills

Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 6:36 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Two bills detailing bans on suggestive material in libraries are making their way through the North Dakota legislature. The Bismarck City Commission waded into the issue and the impact the bills could have on the city.

Bills made and passed at the North Dakota State Capital have an immense impact on city operations around the state. Last week, the Bismarck City Commission discussed House Bill 1205 and Senate Bill 2123, both of which would affect the library.

“Legislation like this takes away from the librarian’s ability to use their skill set and go through their processes as a library,” said City Commissioner Anne Cleary.

Commissioner Cleary stated that she believed the language used in the bills was vague and suggestive about what would or wouldn’t be banned. Cleary said what is suggestive to one person might not be to another. This could lead to confusion on if a book should be on the shelf.

”It would include things like National Geographic magazines, science textbooks, some of the testimony even referred to based off the subjectivity that is in this wording, you could even be making the argument that the Bible shouldn’t be allowed,” said Cleary.

Mayor Mike Schmitz thinks the bills were bordering on censorship and doesn’t support them. But Commissioner Mark Splonskowski does support the bills. He’s calling for the commission to, at a minimum, remain neutral toward the legislation.

”I think that these issues need to be addressed, maybe the wording on these particular bills isn’t as exactly as clear as we would like them to be. But I think these very, very real things that are happening within our community, and they need to be addressed,” said Commissioner Splonskowski.

Commissioner Steve Marquardt said libraries had policies in place to determine if materials are appropriate to be on their shelves. And that the commission will be watching for drafts of the bills.

”We’ll monitor them and I’m sure commissioner Splonskowski will monitor them as well. If there are any other concerns, I’m sure they’ll come up again,” said Commissioner Marquardt.

Commissioner Cleary motioned to oppose both bills. All except Splonskowski voted in favor and the motion passed.

Both bills have had their first hearing in their respective chambers.